(Written and published on Apr 13, 2010)
To all of you, whether you are a new or long-time reader, there’s something I want to share with all of you. It’s a feeling that’s been brimming inside me for the past few days, and I know I can’t get on to other posts until I write about this. At this point of writing, I don’t know exactly what I’m going to write, so I’m going to just let the words flow by themselves.
The Start of My Journey
I still remember it was 2 years ago, in Oct 2008, when I left my ex-company to pursue my passion to help others grow. At that time, I had no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea what were the obstacles up next, what I was going to do, my specific plans, nor how things were going to turn out. In front of me was a huge, misty fog and I didn’t know what was before me.
Was there uncertainty? Yes there was, lots of it. There was uncertainty of what was going to happen. There was uncertainty of how long it was going to take for things to take off. There was uncertainty of what it would take to succeed in this new path.
There were two things I was certain though. Firstly, I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. There was nothing else I would rather do. Secondly, I knew that no matter what was up before me, no matter what obstacles I would face, I would succeed in it. I knew that as long as I pursued this with my heart and all my might, I would achieve what I set out to do. I would do whatever it takes to get there.
I brainstormed on the different mediums to live out my passion. Blogging was one. 1-1 coaching was another one, and then there was training. The latter 2 were areas I didn’t have experience in then, so I decided to start off with blogging, which had low barriers to entry. At the same time, I would hone my skills in the coaching and speaking through self-learning and direct experience.
So I started off with my blog in Dec 2008. Dec 14 2008, to be exact. You can read the very first entry of the blog here. To the readers who started reading way back, you’d know the blog first started as EmbraceLiving.Net. I wanted to drive home the message of “living to our fullest potential and living our best life”, and brainstormed on a list of domain names that fit that theme. Many domains turned out to be registered, and since EmbraceLiving.net was one of the few that wasn’t registered, I took that. I set the blog slogan as “To achieve our highest potential and to live our best life“, in line with my purpose. Looking back, that was a little mouthful for a slogan.
From there, I focused on writing my best articles every day. My earliest articles in Dec ’08 were How to Discover Your Purpose (7-part series), The Myth of Perfectionism (3-part series), Become the Master of Your Time , Put First Things First, You are the CEO of Your Life and Self Discipline is Overrated. Every day, I would spend hours and hours writing content-rich articles. Articles I didn’t feel were good enough were trashed. Articles that made the cut, were revised over and over again to ensure this was the best content I could offer to readers. I ensured everything written here was value-laden, universal (applicable to anyone from anywhere) and timeless (applicable whether you read this 10 years ago, now, or 10 years later). I set a very high bar for my articles, because I knew people would be reading these for advice on their own life situations.
I worked really hard at promoting the blog at social media sites, with Digg.com and Reddit.com as the key ones. I told all my friends about my blog and sought their help to share it with others who are interested in personal growth. I commented at related personal development blogs and local forums, so people who liked my comments would surf over to my blog to take a look. I also emailed other bloggers to establish friendships with them, friendships which continue to last till today. Even as I’m typing this, a wave of nostalgia is washing over me.
During the early period, my friends or ex-colleagues who met me would ask me a flurry of questions. “Why did you quit such a great job?” “Are you going to get another job?” “How are you going to earn money?” “What are you going to do?” “How long are you going to do this?” “When are you getting back to work again?” and a barrage of other questions. Sometimes I would openly address these questions, other times I wished they would just stop asking. I appreciated their care and concern, but after a while I got a little weary of explaining the same things over and over. I was tired of explaining what was going to happen. I would rather spend that energy creating the results.
Truth be told, a part of me was frustrated I didn’t already have those results. If I did, I wouldn’t need to do any explaining. Money emerged as an issue, and I was frustrated that it was an issue, especially when I never had to worry much about money back when I was working previously. In the past, I was well paid compared to my peers; I would spend on whatever I wanted and needed without worrying about the price. But then after I quit, I had to be conscious of my expenditures. I cut away all my insurance plans. I simplified my lifestyle, cutting away many expenditures. I used to shop a whole lot, but then I stopped doing that. I tried to eat at home where possible. When I was buying stuff, whether food or otherwise, I would go for lower cost alternatives. I felt constrained. I was disappointed.
I didn’t want to worry about money as I was starting out, because I felt value creation and awareness generation were more important in the early stages of my work, rather than earning money. At the same time, I couldn’t ignore the reality. It was a petty yet real issue. I needed to support myself and I needed to give money to my parents. It wasn’t fair for them to be implicated by my personal decision. So I started giving private tuition to students to earn some side money. It wasn’t a lot (I was just earning a few hundred bucks a month), but at least there was some money coming in to offset the expenditures. That helped me to focus on pursuing my passion.
Meanwhile, I continued writing and promoting the blog, day after day. Even during the days when it seemed like no one was reading my articles, or the traffic was dwindling, I kept at it. I remember in the first week of my blog, there was an average of less than 100 visitors a day. It was about the same for the next 2 weeks. Often times I would get spikes from social media sites, but it never sustained – traffic would quickly plateau the next day. Nonetheless, I kept researching and learning from others, improvising my actions along the way. I knew it was a matter of time before the results would come in.
And they did too. On 6 Jan 2009, my article on sleepwalkers hit the front page of Digg.com, and later on Delicious. For those not familiar with social media, Digg.com is one of the largest social media sites in the US. It brought in over tens of thousands of new visitors in just a couple of days. That was the first milestone for the blog. Later on, my articles on 101 Inspiring Quotes and 5 Reasons To Quit Drinking Soda Drinks (And How to Do It) would hit the FP of StumbleUpon and Digg.com respectively, bringing in other new visitors.
Then on 27 March, My Paper, a widely circulated newspaper in Singapore (with 300,000 circulation), covered me in their feature story. I was beyond ecstatic. This was my first time appearing on the newspapers (other than one other time in secondary school) and I didn’t know what to expect at all. The interview took place over the phone, while photoshoot was done inside my room.
A day before the release, I excitedly texted just about everyone on my mobile about the upcoming feature and told them to check the papers the next day. I still remember waking up at 6:45am that morning just so I would be one of the first to get a copy. Considering I would wake up late during those days, that was very early. I remember feeling groggy and blurry eyed as I was queuing up for the papers.
Immediately after the feature, I received an overwhelming number of requests for my coaching, so much so that I had to start charging a nominal fee to control the demand, as well as put in place a waiting list. The waiting list would continue to be filled out for the rest of the year.
Realigning With My Vision
In June 2009, I realized the name Embrace Living was attracting self-help junkies (people who indulge in self-help but don’t take action), and this wasn’t in line with the message I was trying to drive. I wanted to advocate the message that life is about living it to the fullest and being the best we can, and there’s nothing we cannot achieve as long as we set our heart to it. After much thought, I settled on Personal Excellence (Personal-Excellence) as the new name, and the slogan “Be your best self, Live your best life“. (which interestingly, was already ringing in my head back in Dec ’08) Looking back, I couldn’t have come up with a better option.
Continual Hard Work and Growth
Throughout the year, I continued to give my best lessons and insights away in my articles at my blog. Offline, I coached different individuals from different walks of life, and did several workshops and speeches. I eventually set up my training business (The School of Personal Excellence; I eventually streamlined everything online to what you see as PE today) at the end of 2009. In the meantime, I continued to promote the blog – on social media sites, optimized the SEO (search engine optimization), wrote guest posts, posted on article directories, advertised on other sites, among others. I continued to be interviewed and featured by different media channels.
The efforts paid off. As the months went by, more and more people got to know about PE. I received more feedback day by day, many of which are positive and others being constructive criticism. More people began to link back to Personal Excellence on their blogs. Others would share the articles with their friends and family, or spread the word through word of mouth.
The readership base grew over the year, from an average of 500 visitors/day, to 600, 800, 1,100, 1,400, 1,600, 1,800… to an average of 3,000 unique readers today. Subscriber count grew from 0, to a few hundreds, to the first thousand, then 1,200, and 1,600… and most recently nearly 2,000.
Somewhere, somehow during this phase, you got to know about Personal Excellence in someway of another. Maybe it was some random web surfing one day. Maybe it was a friend’s recommendation. Or maybe it was from search engines, social media, blogs or forums.
It’s been 1 year and 4 months since this blog started. It’s been hundreds of hours of hard work and late nights, writing the articles, running the site and promoting the blog. It’s been hundreds of emails (to/from readers/clients), about 150 articles written and about half a million words typed. It has been a lot of passion, a lot of love and a lot of warmth.
Whether you started reading Personal Excellence from when I first started out, or halfway last year, or just recently, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for living in this world. Thank you for being with me. Thank you for your feedback and support. Thank you for giving me the chance to live my purpose. Thank you for sharing this blog with your friends/family. Thank you for linking to this blog. Thank you for being a part of my life. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a catalyst in your journey of conscious growth. It’s really my honor and privilege.
This blog wouldn’t be where it is today without you. Understand that all that I’m doing today is possible because of you. So, thank you.
This is my journey thus far and I can’t wait to see what’s next. I can’t wait to share it with all of you. I’m not going anywhere – as far as I’m aware of, I’m going to continue writing at this blog forever till the day I die. I want to share with you many more stories of myself, my past, my present and my future – all the upsides, the downsides, the glamorous sides, the ugly sides – as I continue on to grow and help others grow. I’m not afraid to share with you my vulnerabilities and my shames if it will help even just one person in his/her journey of growth.
There are endless areas for me to learn from, endless number of things for me to improve on and endless number of things for me to experience. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I don’t have all the answers and I may not always be right. There are times when I may very well be wrong. To be honest, I don’t know what exactly to expect next. But one thing that I can be sure of is this – I’ll surely continue to live true to my mission. I will continue to grow fervently and be the best I can be. I will continue to do my best in helping others out there to grow and live their best lives. I’m very grateful that you are here with me on this journey. There will be more obstacles, more challenges and more difficulties, and I look forward to overcoming them with you as I journey down this path.